Blake Skjellerup, committed to representing LGBT people at 2014 Olympics

Kiwi speed skater Blake Skjellerup remains committed to representing the global LGBT population in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia, a country whose infamous anti-LGBT propaganda laws have made it a controversial host. If his trial speeds qualify him for the Games, Skjellerup could potentially be the only out LGBT athlete present at the Olympics. He has promised to use this symbolic position to promote gay rights within Russia, by wearing a rainbow flag pin and helping to organize LGBT groups. While competing in the country, he has met many activists and been shocked by the stories of intimidation and violence that have affected the beleaguered LGBT population. His goal is to send a message to Russian President Vladimir Putin that support for LGBT rights is growing around the world and that Russia's homophobic laws are not being ignored or forgotten.

Simply by being present at the games, Skjellerup will prove that sports are, at their best, inclusive of everyone. An open and accepting sports world is a highly personal matter to him. As a high schooler in New Zealand, he frequently suffered from bullying and his passion for sports was his primary method of coping. It was only after competing in the 2010 Vancouver Games that Skjellerup became confident enough to come out publicly as gay. Now he wants to repay the favor. Seeing his face at the podium will be a reminder to everyone, including LGBT people in Russia, that one's sexual orientation does not negatively affect one's success and happiness. As a result, Skjellerup has said, Russia's hosting the Olympics may ultimately be beneficial to the international campaign for gay rights, as it will cast a spotlight on the cruelty of homophobic laws and their increasing irrelevance in the modern world.

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